Another fantastic showing by Neymar helped Brazil earn a 2-1 home win over Colombia in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.
The 24-year-old superstar earned an opening assist and then a game-winning goal in the 74th minute as Brazil earned an important three points toward CONMEBOL qualifying.
Colombia looked overmatched for much of the night, only getting onto the scoresheet at the hands of a Marquinhos own goal in the first half.
As Euan McTear of Marca argued, the result could have been much bigger:
This was an important victory for the Selecao, which came into the matchday in fifth place in the table, one outside of the automatic qualifiers for Russia. Although it's a long tournament, the squad likely feels much better climbing above Colombia and pulling even with Argentina.
There are still 10 matches for each team over the next year, but you can already tell the battle for the 4.5 spots will be wild
Brazil set the tone early Tuesday with a goal in just the second minute, as described by Carl Worswick of World Soccer Mag:
The home team controlled the action as the match continued, allowing few chances anywhere on the pitch for Colombia. Rupert Fryer of BGT described the one-sided play for the first half-hour:
However, the match changed when Colombia earned a fortunate bounce on a free kick. James Rodriguez drilled the ball into the box hoping one of his players would be able to head it in, but it ended up being Marquinhos who got the touch on the ball, producing an own goal for Brazil.
The Selecao looked like the better team through the first 45 minutes but went into halftime with a 1-1 draw.
BeIN Sports provided highlights from the first half:
Both sides struggled to get chances in the second half, but Brazil remained aggressive and got off a number of good looks at the net.
Finally, the home team looked to its best player to score the go-ahead goal. Great hustle from Gabriel Jesus got the ball to Philippe Coutinho, who found Neymar. The Barcelona man then had no problem driving the ball past the keeper into the net.
OptaJavier broke down just how valuable Neymar has been throughout qualifying:
Colombia ended up with a few chances late but simply couldn't get much going. They finished the match being outshot 15-5 while holding just 37.5 percent of possession.
This was the second in as many matches for new Brazil manager Tite. While there were some noticeable changes in the energy on the team, one of the interesting factors is his choice to rotate the captaincy to various players each match. Dani Alves wore the armband Tuesday instead of Neymar.
"There are various leaders in the group and each has their own spirit," Alves said, per Goal.com. "I do not think that there is a great importance in being captain, though it is a great honour to represent this team with the armband. I believe the group needs a little bit of leadership from everyone, and we certainly have that."
The changes have worked so far, which means there is no reason to stop now.
After a month break from international competition, Brazil will try to take control of the table with matches against Bolivia and Venezuela. Although both have proved to be tough outs already, they also represent two of the easiest matches you will see in qualifying.
Colombia will have a tougher run in October against Paraguay and Uruguay, two matches that will help clear up the jumbled mess in the middle of the CONMEBOL table.
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